One person is happy to be staying with his club, another despondent he will remain with his club. Such is the drama the January transfer window created for Jonny and Wolverhampton as they look to strengthen their hold on seventh in the table Saturday at Goodison Park versus Idrissa Gueye and Everton.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
Jonny arrived to new boys Wolverhampton on loan from Atletico Madrid after a stint with Celta Vigo in Spain. The left back has been a vital part of Wolves (10-5-9) being the best of the rest outside the Big Six and arguably one of the best promoted sides in the Premier League era. On Thursday, Jonny signed a £15 million permanent deal with the club through 2023.
“I’m very happy to sign for Wolves,” Jonny told Wolves’ official website. “The last few days we spoke about it and now it’s official, I’ll be Wolves for the next four years. I’m really happy to continue to be involved with the team. I am very happy here, the truth is that it was very easy to decide. They are treating me very well, there are great staff, great team mates and great supporters. It is a big club and really, I am very happy to be here.”
Wolverhampton are seeking a third league win on the spin after arguably their most comprehensive victory of the season, a 3-0 hiding of West Ham United on Tuesday. Romain Saiss opened the scoring in the 66th minute before Raul Jimenez added a brace in the final 10 minutes.
The Mexico international could be the next in line to have his loan deal become permanent in the West Midlands as Jimenez has five goals and one assist in his last seven matches across all competitions.
“All my team mates were fantastic today. It’s the first time I’ve scored two goals in a game so I’m very happy for that and the team performance,” a delighted Jimenez said. “I’m very happy to score two and I had a chance at the end, maybe I could do a bit more, but this is football, sometimes it goes in, sometimes out.”
Wolves did have one regular move on before the close of the January window as reserve forward Leo Bonatini was loaned out to Nottingham Forest.
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo will have all of his first-choice back three available for this match as left back Willy Boly completed serving his three-match ban for a straight red card given against Manchester City on Jan. 14. Boly had started the first 22 league matches while centre back Conor Coady has played every minute of every league match and right back Ryan Bennett has missed only one contest.
As Jonny is celebrating a new deal, Gueye is lamenting a proposed move that never got past the asking stages. Everton (9-6-9) rebuffed repeated bids by French power Paris-St. Germain to pry the defensive midfielder from Goodison Park, with their last offer Thursday before the deadline a reported £26.2 million after a bid of £21.5 million earlier that day was rubbished.
The 29-year-old Senegal international has started 19 of Everton’s 24 league matches and 83 of 86 Premier League contests since joining the Toffees in 2016. How he responds to the club blocking the proposed move will be something to watch going forward because Gueye has a solid working partnership in defensive midfield with Andre Gomes.
On the pitch, the Toffees provided the needed response to their shock exit from the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory at last-place Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. Richarlison’s goal in the third minute separated the sides, but Everton refused to make it easy on themselves as Lucas Digne was given a straight red card on 66 minutes for denying Adama Diakhaby a goal-scoring opportunity.
“We needed the win against Huddersfield, no matter how it came,” midfielder Tom Davies told evertontv. “The circumstances were difficult with having 10 men and I was proud of every single one of the lads out there.
“We will move on to the weekend now and hopefully we can get a good run going. Wolves will be a very tough game but I am sure at Goodison we can build on this and we will be working hard in training to do so.”
Since the red card was not for violent conduct, Digne must only sit out this match and will be available for Everton’s mid-week clash against Manchester City. Jonjoe Kenny is the most likely option to step in at left back for the France international, who leads the Premier League with 184 crosses.
Richarlison has scored goals in his last two matches after a five-game drought without a marker. The Brasil international opened his Everton account with a brace in the reverse fixture at Molineux, where the teams opened the season with a 2-2 draw.
Ruben Neves canceled out Richarlison’s first goal right before halftime, and Jimenez voided the second 10 minutes from time. Everton are unbeaten in their last seven top-fight matches (2-5-0) versus Wolves since a 2-1 loss in 2004.
Wolverhampton – making their first trip to Goodison Park since 2011 – are 0-2-2 in Premier League matches there.
Per Bet365, Everton are 13/10 favourites to take all three points from this contest, with Wolverhampton 21/10 underdogs to make it three wins on the spin in league play. The odds of the clubs picking up a point apiece are 9/4.
Despite Wolves bagging seven goals in their last two league matches, oddsmakers are not all that convinced there will be much scoring in this contest. There are 4/5 odds on the teams scoring less than 2.5 goals compared to even money to clear that marker. There also 4/5 odds on both teams getting a goal versus 19/20 odds either Pickford or Patricio post a clean sheet.
Richarlison leads the way for first goal-scorer options, offering a 5/1 return for those who think he can turn the trick for a second straight contest for the Toffees. Teammates Cenk Tosun (11/2) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (13/2) round out the podium spots, and the Wovles duo of Jimenez and Leo Bonatini are also 13/2 options. Everton playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson is a 7/1 choice, with Diogo Jota lurking close behind at 15/2 with Merseysider Theo Walcott.
Richarlison is a 13/8 pick to score over the course of 90 minutes, as Tosun (15/8) trails close by. Calvert-Lewin, Jimenez and Bonatini are all 9/4 options, with Sigurdsson at 12/5 ahead of Jota and Walcott (13/5).
Just when it seems like Everton are ready to be a fully functional squad, there is always something. This weekend, the secondary plot is replacing Digne at left back with Kenny, which is the sacrifice of some offensive quality via crosses and some set pieces in the attacking third.
But the bigger story is Gueye, who in all likelihood will not be a factor in this match as Davies is expected to take his spot in central midfield next to Gomes. For one match this is fine, though the timing is sub-optimal considering Wolverhampton have a wealth of midfield talent and a happy one among them in Jonny following his contract extension.
This could be the most pivotal of the matches involving the group of teams vying for seventh place and a potential Europa League qualifying round spot. A win for Wolves would give them a prime opportunity to move five points clear of both Bournemouth and Watford, who are both on the road as well Saturday. It would also drop the Toffees into that pack at 33 points.
Everton continue to be a side who have parts greater than the sum of the whole. Silva said all the right things about Gueye after the club rejected PSG’s overtures, but he’s yet to solve whether Richarlison or Cenk Tosun should lead the line. The Toffees may not be the team everyone wants them to be until that issue is settled, which may lead to a top-down improvement via team bonding.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Everton 0, Wolverhampton 2.
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 25 PREVIEWS:
Tottenham Hotspur (18-0-6) vs. Newcastle United (6-6-12)
Burnley (6-5-13) vs. Southampton (5-8-11)
Crystal Palace (6-5-13) vs. Fulham (4-5-15)
Manchester City (18-3-3) vs. Arsenal (14-5-5)
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